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The Cleveland Orchestra Story: "Second to None" Hardcover – September 25, 2000

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The Cleveland Orchestra Story: "Second to None" + George Szell - One Man's Triumph / Cleveland Orchestra + George Szell: A Life of Music (Music in American Life)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 752 pages
  • Publisher: Gray & Company, Publishers; 1st edition (September 25, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1886228248
  • ISBN-13: 978-1886228245
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #594,992 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Among America's great symphonic institutions, the Cleveland Orchestra is not only one of the best, but one of the youngest. Founded by the formidable impresario Adella Prentiss Hughes in collaboration with the city's industrial and political leaders, it made its public debut in 1918. This book tells the story of the Cleveland's rise from modest beginnings to a position of undisputed preeminence among international orchestras.

Its first guide and mentor was the Russian-born violinist and conductor Nikolai Sokoloff. His contribution to its growth and expansion has been overshadowed by the great, often colorful maestros who succeeded him: Artur Rodzinsky, Erich Leinsdorf, Lorin Maazel, and, currently, Christoph von Dohnányi. However, it was the imposing, authoritarian George Szell who, in his 24-year tenure, left the strongest imprint on the orchestra, developing its matchless technical perfection, transparency, and balance, and forging it into "his instrument" as a world-class group.

Donald Rosenberg follows the orchestra's triumphs and tribulations--musical, personal, financial--in a rehearsal-by-rehearsal, concert-by-concert, recording-by-recording, dollar-by-dollar account, listing every program, every conductor, every soloist, in exhaustive, frequently exhausting detail. He describes the behind-the-scenes squabbles and intrigues; the conductors' strengths, weaknesses, and idiosyncrasies; the hiring and firing of players; the incessant labor conflicts between musicians and management, and, sadly, between musicians and their own union. Abundant quotes from both local and, later, worldwide newspaper reviews and commentaries reveal the extraordinary influence of the press on internal and public policy, which Rosenberg, himself the music critic of a Cleveland newspaper, casually takes for granted; his own opinions and preferences come through clearly, if obliquely. His writing is lively and informative, though it occasionally lapses into repetition and even contradiction.

The book includes copious notes, the orchestra's discography, the premieres it has performed, and--best of all--the names of its members through the years. So many of them have gone on to making successful careers as soloists, chamber musicians, orchestral leaders, and prestigious teachers that the list induces constant shocks of recognition: proof that the Cleveland Orchestra, though rooted in the seemingly inhospitable soil of a Midwestern industrial city, has always attracted and nurtured outstanding musical talent. --Edith Eisler


Manages to be both crammed full of facts and a good, fast-paced read . . . it’s about as comprehensive—and entertaining—a history of a great musical organization you’re likely to encounter. (T.J Medrek The Boston Herald 20000929)

A meticulously researched, in-depth, eloquently told account, and quite possibly the finest of its kind ever written, at least in English . . . A gripping story that the reader, once engaged, can put aside only with the greatest difficulty . . . Fascinating anecdotes, quips, stories, facts and events are found on nearly every page . . . Will fascinate not only Cleveland Orchestra fans but anyone interested in how a great orchestra is created and how it operates on a daily basis. (Robert Markow Schwann Opus Magazine 20010601)

A fascinating history of the tangled but sometimes fruitful relationship between politics and the arts in America—a story written with admiration, respect and affection, but also with a candor and detail . . . Highly detailed and informative, but written with ease and authority and dramatic immediacy . . . A frank, detailed account of how an important performing company operates in a large American city. (David critic The Plain Dealer 20001008)

[A] fascinating and carefully researched history. (Richard Dyer Boston Globe Online (boston.com) 20001001)

Absorbing. (Alex Ross The New Yorker 20001009)

Much more than a history of one of the finest U.S. orchestras . . . Donald Rosenberg has written a fascinating account of music, musicians, politics, unbridled egos, and business that engages the reader like a good mystery novel . . . thoroughly researched, well documented, and very well written. (Timothy J. McGee Library Journal 20001115)

It is ambitious, but Mr. Rosenberg, an engaging and often eloquent writer, succeeds in making this a human story. The result is a readable, colorful and fascinating chronicle that is an indispensable addition to any orchestra lover’s library. (Janelle Gelfand Cincinnati Enquirer 20010204)

Absorbing reading, not merely a reference piece. Nor is it a lazy view of the subject from the rear of the balcony . . . Irresistible, tremendously informative and a just plain good read. And yes, it should be in the library of every lover of symphonic music and certainly every collector of books on music. Period! (B.L.C New Music Connoisseur 20010328)

A tour de force and will be the standard for many years. Rosenberg never loses sight of the human element in the orchestra’s history . . . It is long, but it is a wonderful read. (Wil Hoffman The Weekly Villager 20010323)

A gripping, complex, sweeping, highly recommended story of true drama and high achievement . . . “Must” reading for anyone who has admired this American music institution as well as the men and women who made it possible. (Midwest Book Review 20010301)

Although [t]his history weighs in at an impressive 550 pages, it never seems overlong. This is mainly because of the many larger-than-life characters that crowd the pages, and the skillful way in which Rosenberg balances all the myriad factors that have determined the growth of one of America’s finest orchestras . . . Rosenberg writes in an easy, readable style. It is the best kind of American critical writing: clear and to the point. His account is well structured and finely edited. (David Patmore International Record Review 20010301)

It is a story well worth the telling and he tells it well . . . The story of what can happen to an orchestra when a community decides it wants a winner. (The Toronto Star 20010303)

Portrays fascinating details in a balanced account . . . This book is a must for music lovers. Before reading this work, I never realized the struggles, frustrations, infighting and financial worries of the courageous men and women who made this orchestra happen and develop into what it is today. (Eva Richter Music Clubs Magazine, National Federation of Music Clubs 20010401)

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Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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See all 16 customer reviews
Bravo and thank you Don Rosenberg!
Harold Weller
I was thrilled to finally get my hands on Donald Rosenberg's Cleveland Orchestra Story - it surpassed my expectations.
Kate Maloney
Anyone who loves orchestral music should enjoy this book.
Robert L. Estes

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Harold Weller on October 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Rosenberg's new volume has been joyously received and devoured by this reader. Even though the length (some 700 pages) is formidable, I was not able to leave it for long since receiving it this week. I find R's account thoroughly accurate, engaging, and stimulating. The book's account of Szell's life and Cleveland tenure finally fills the void for any such account (save a scattered few articles and Robert Marsh's volume on the Cleveland Orchestra published in 1967). For this alone, Rosenberg deserves high praise, but goes so much farther in presenting and illuminating all the significant on-stage and behind-the-scenes personalities in the life of this estimable musical institution. This is essential reading for anyone who, as I, grew up in the golden era of the Cleveland Orchestra. Bravo and thank you Don Rosenberg!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Kate Maloney on November 2, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I was thrilled to finally get my hands on Donald Rosenberg's Cleveland Orchestra Story - it surpassed my expectations. A lifelong Clevelander with fairly good exposure to the artistic and cultural life of the city, I had heard talk of the book in process, and knew it was a formidable project that was being widely anticipated. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to hear the Cleveland Orchestra over the years, and have always been proud of - and a little awed by - its reputation. So, I was happy to see a book that lived up to the same high standards as the subject it covers. I am no orchestral or classical music aficionado, but I was captivated by the story nonetheless. A story of great personalities, of great talent, of a city made greater for those. I may not know all the names and sounds of the people and musical pieces Rosenberg writes about (masterfully and knowledgeably), but his style is easy, even compelling. Great details, exhaustive but not exhausting. This was a book I wanted to own, because of its content but also because of its feel - its hefty weight but manageable size, classy cover, traditional type, thick ivory rough-edged paper. A gift - for myself (and hopefully for some family members over the holidays).
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By R. Kunath on November 5, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The Cleveland Orchestra has long deserved a comprehensive history, and Donald Rosenberg has filled that need admirably. The great achievement of the book is to make one understand how challenging it is to *manage* a symphony orchestra, and Rosenberg's careful attention to the nuts-and-bolts business of creating, running, and improving the Cleveland Orchestra makes one aware of just how remarkable an achievement it is that Cleveland is one of the finest orchestras in the world. For example, at the time George Szell was raising the Cleveland to a position at the very top of the hierarchy of American orchestras, the CO ranked 11th in terms of pay among American orchestras.
My one disappointment with the book was that I would have liked to have seen more sustained reflection on the musical and artistic qualities that have distinguished the orchestra over its history. Much of the book is written in relatively short sections, and I began to yearn for a more continuous narrative that could cut deeper.
But make no mistake, this book is essential reading for any fan of the Cleveland Orchestra, and anyone interested in how a great cultural institution can be created.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By M. Seeley on November 2, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Donald Rosenberg's loving but detailed history of the Cleveland Orchestra reads like a novel, but it is well researched. I was completely engrossed. This is not a romanticized account. The personalities involved are people full of light and shadows. Szell, for example, comes off as the brilliant artist so fixated on the musical dimension that he depreciates or is blind to other valuable dimensions of life like the beauty of human relationships. The conflicts and the joys of the orchestra are made evident. The selections of concert reviews are balanced with the good and the bad.
Those who enjoy classical music will profit from reading this wonderful account of the Cleveland Orchestra who are indeed "second to none."
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By John Kwok HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on February 6, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Among serious fans and critics of classical music, the "Big Five" of Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, New York and Philadelphia are America's finest symphony orchestras, equal in quality to their peers in Europe. Yet only one of these is universally regarded as the equal to Europe's very best, the Berlin Philharmonic and Vienna Philharmonic orchestras: surprisingly, the one often mentioned as among the world's top three is the Cleveland Orchestra. Having heard the Cleveland Orchestra performing live under the batons of Dohnanyi, Boulez and Welser-Most at Carnegie Hall, I must concur with this popular opinion since this orchestra may now be the world's finest, or at least, on par with the venerable Vienna Philharmonic (Under Simon Rattle's leadership, the Berlin Philharmonic seems to have slipped somewhat in quality, and I would add yet another orchestra, Amsterdam's Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, to my list of the world's top four symphony orchestras.). I have yet to hear a disappointing Cleveland Orchestra recording or live performance; this is without question, a precision quality ensemble always capable of flawless, lovely playing.

Cleveland newspaper music critic Donald Rosenberg tells an engrossing saga of the Cleveland Orchestra's history, from its founding in 1918, through the George Szell years which ensured the orchestra's rise to prominence as a world-class symphony orchestra, and finally, the close of Christoph von Dohnanyi's successful tenure as the orchestra's music director over the span of eighteen years.
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